Moms on Moms

I was on The Jim Bohannon radio show recently when a woman named Jennifer called to talk about her stay-at-home mother's attitude towards working motherhood. Jennifer, a nurse with a 14-year-old daughter, rarely works a predictable eight-hour day, often having to stay late to care for patients. Her teenage daughter has always understood. Her mother hasn't.

"It's been terrible for years. She makes me feel like a bad mother because I work."

Maybe Jennifer's work makes her mother feel bad that she stayed home?

My mother, a stay-at-home mom for most of my childhood, always encouraged me to work. At one point, The Washington Post offered me a second full-time job, in addition to the one I was doing. Two full-time jobs at once -- crazy, right? I called my mom to ask for advice. I was pregnant with our third child, and we'd just moved to Washington. I thought my mom, always a voice of reason, would urge me to slow down.

"These opportunities don't come along very often, I imagine," she said instead. "It's a big compliment to you. Why don't you try it and see how it goes?"

So I did, until the baby's birth gave me a logical reason to restructure my job responsibilities. The long days and stress were worth it. I proved to my bosses that I could handle extra responsibility, which made them more amenable when I asked to work part-time a year later.

What does your mother think of whether you work or stay home? And for moms with adult daughters, what do you think of your daughters' decisions? How much has your mother's attitude shaped your approach to work and family?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  April 20, 2006; 6:50 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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Comments

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My father was a coal miner and my mother was a stay at home mom until my dad lost his job when I was 14. My mom although very smart, had no working skills and no education past high school.

My dad found another job in a factory making a third less than what he did in the mine. My mother was thankful that her friend got her a job as a cleaning lady. These were tough times, no health insurance, not much to eat, and no luxuries like going to the movies, etc.

That being said, what happened to my family and my mother has shaped our families views differently. My older siblings were all grown and all of them are either a stay at home mother now or married to one.

I on the other hand decided when I was 14 and cleaning up after other people after school that I would always work. My mom agrees, she encouraged me to go to college and she supports me now. Neither one of us want my daughter to have to go through what we went through.

Posted by: Scarry | April 20, 2006 7:18 AM

My mother was a stay-at-home Mom until I entered high school. Then, she went to work part-time with flexible hours but little pay. Looking back, I really took for granted the time that she spent with me while I was little. As a child and young adult, I told myself that I would be a self-sufficient career woman and would never have to depend on my husband financially. I went to college and graduate school, and worked for years in a good job.

Fast forward a decade or so, and now I'm a stay-at-home Mom and I absolutely LOVE it. I never thought I would be happy staying home, but I couldn't imagine paying someone else for the privilege of raising my child. There will always be time to work when my child is older and needs me less, but for now the place I need to be is at home - for the sake of my child and my own sanity. Yes, it's hard to deprive myself of the little luxuries that I enjoyed while I worked, but I know that my son is safe and happy with me and that makes the sacrifice worthwhile.

Posted by: Kitty | April 20, 2006 8:35 AM

Hey how do you ladies with clearances handle doing a short term (few years) stay at home? Do you then have to get a new clearance, or is there some way to keep them? Around here they are worth so much.

Posted by: ljb | April 20, 2006 8:43 AM

I'm wondering why a grown person would call their mother for career advice...

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 8:52 AM

Sounds like she was asking for life advice. Who can you ask if you can't ask your mom?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 8:58 AM

My mother always worked. She still works, though she's past the typical 'retirement' age. On top of working, she ran our household, raising 4 kids on less than $50K combined income. She got her work gene from her mother, who worked outside the home to help support her 10 (!) kids.

My mom knows I'm just as ADHD as she is. She wants me to stop having kids (I have two) but she knows that I wouldn't be able to stay home and still be sane. Apparently, I need the insanity that comes with working outside the home...

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 9:00 AM

My mom (a SAHM mom until I was 16) is fine with the fact that I'm a working mom; the only thing she ever needles me about is the fact that I'm 200 miles away from her and the rest of the family. She would be happier if she could see her grandson seven days a week. :D

(Before anyone starts in, my son and I travel down to see them once a month and he stays with my mom a few weeks during the summer. The grandparents aren't deprived. :D )

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | April 20, 2006 9:02 AM

My mom went back to work when we were in junior high. She worked 12 years and helped pay college bills. She did excellent work and was proud of it.

I have always worked full time. I have two children, now teens. My mother was always supportive though she acknowledged that when she was young, households with two professional earners had full time household help -- something few couples have now. My father, though he was my professional role model in many ways, was clearly uncomfortable with my working while my children were small. He was somewhat comforted by the fact that my mother helped out with child care when my children were small.

Posted by: Montgomery County, MD | April 20, 2006 9:02 AM

My mom knows of my plans to stay at home after the babies come - she hasn't really said much about it. I guess she figures it's my life.

My father, on the other hand... He thinks I'm nuts to give up my "career." For the record, I'm 27, have had a job that I LOATHE for going on 5 years (which he knows) so I'm not really sure why he thinks I'd choose to stay.

Posted by: DLM | April 20, 2006 9:04 AM

My parents emigrated to this country in 1956 two years before I was born. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. She confided in me when I was in high school that she was always worried being completely reliant on my father - not because she thought he would leave her but because he could get hit by a bus. She had no family in this country, no working skills, and having learned English in her late 30s, she was not confident in her language skills. She wanted me to have marketable skills so that I would never be in that same situation.

Before she passed away four years ago, she often admired how I handled everything as a working mom and told me that her life had been so much easier than mine. She couldn't believe that I put in a full day at work and then came home and made sure that I spent all my time with my children. But her admiration has ensured that I feel good about my choice.

Posted by: SLP | April 20, 2006 9:05 AM

Staying at home can be a very great financial risk, as Scarry points out. Even with an education, there's no guarantee of finding a good job with benefits after having been out of the work force (I'm looking to return after an absence of 10 years, and it's intimidating).

My mother stayed home 20 years (5 kids), then returned to work. Although she told me she would have preferred to remain a SAHM, work really made her blossom. She developed many friendships, was able to obtain better health insurance than my father ever had , and now helps support her in her retirement years.

The truth is, most women will work to support themselves and their families at some point. The question is, what is the best way for individual women to do it?

I think the answer is different for everyone. If I could do anything differently, I would have tried to have more of a strategy about the whole family/work thing.

Posted by: Kate | April 20, 2006 9:07 AM

I knew when I went back to work after my daughter was born that my mother was not happy with that decision.

When my child was around 4 she told my aunt how surprised she was that my daughter was so well-behaved and loving "especially since her mother works." I decided to take that as a complement. While she would prefer to see me at home, she realizes that I have not damaged my child irrepairably with daycare.

Now if she would only get over the fact that my husband cooks dinner every night because he's the first to get home...

Posted by: Working_Mom | April 20, 2006 9:29 AM

ljb:

I've been a manager and had numerous employees [primarily soon-to-be moms] ask me this question. Depending on your job, many of the larger firms may work with you to structure a part-time position [10-12 hours a week] that allow you to keep your clearance. For some employees, I've seen the equivalent of seasonal work [a week over the holidays or a couple of weeks over the summer] in order to keep the individual's clearance active.

The magic number is 2 years -- in general if you go two years of inactive status you effectively need to start again on the clearance paperwork.

Hope this helps.

Posted by: A Dad | April 20, 2006 9:31 AM

Thanks, A Dad, and thanks to ljb for asking the question! My husband has security clearance but is currently a SAHD until our girls are in school. I was the SAHM for the first 3 years, and now it's his turn. One of the reasons why we chose to do this is that we felt it was easier for us to re-enter the workplace if we each took 3 years off than if I took 6.

Posted by: Ms L | April 20, 2006 9:38 AM

Kate,

I'm not sure what you did before you had children, but i'm sure you will have no problem finding another job. Being a stay at home mom is not easy, and it takes a lot of skills to make a household run. If yo live in the city I would try applying to a non-profit, it's less money, but they tend to have a wide variety of employees. I've meant many people who stayed home, worked the whole time, or worked part time.

Good Luck!

Posted by: Scarry | April 20, 2006 9:39 AM

My mother worked until I was born and has been SAH ever since, except for a couple of years when I was in high school that she worked.

My two sisters & I were expected to work until we started our families. When my husband & I bought our first home in 1992 my father said to me "Well you can't start a family now. You need your salary to help pay the mortgage." I replied I had no intention of leaving the workforce.

I am still WOH and my two sisters are SAH, having left the workforce when their first children arrived. It's often clear who my parents think made the "better" choice.

Posted by: Corinne | April 20, 2006 9:41 AM

Coriine,

My brother makes comments about me working all the time, like "you can give that baby to me if you don't want her." I just ignore it, but i'll tell you one thing they don't ignore. Every year since I have been about 19, i've bought their boys school clothes because they never have the money. Also, my mom yells at my brother for these comments. The point is that you have to be happy with your choices and not worry about anyone else.

Posted by: Scarry | April 20, 2006 9:48 AM

I come from the family of working mothers and my mother has been supportive of me working though she thinks that my life as a working mother is stressful and difficult for me. My mother is in the artistic field and not working for her would have meant not doing what she loves. As a matter of fact, she still works. In restrospect, she was a very strict mother with very little time for "cuddling" when I was young but she allowed me a lot of freedom when I got older. Because she was so strict I was afraid of her opinion more than of teachers and peers and barely got in trouble. She has been supportive of just about everything I had done which was not easy for her because it took me away from her at 18. The only criticism I hear from her now is that I am spoiling my children.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 9:48 AM

I am lucky to work in the not for profit arena. I was in public accounting (which seemed to be the MOST non- family friendly place evr). My husband and I don't have children yet, but this and other blogs and forums are really making us formulate a plan about children, as quality daycare is so astrinomical in this area. I think my ideal situation would be to work part time in order to keep the benefits and also be able to stay home. It's tough to think about!

Posted by: K | April 20, 2006 9:52 AM

funny thing; i was dicussing this very issue with my mom on the phone the other day. she has been a sahm for her four kids, but she advised me to consider going back to work when we return home later this year. i am in the states with my husband who is pursuing a phd.

i had given birth to her third grandchild here. i decided to quit my job (i was on no-pay leave then) & be a sahm so that i could raise my little guy. yet mom felt that with my working experience, education level, & accompanying pay, it would be a pity to stop working. think of the things you can do with two income in the family, she said. think of the advantages you can give your son & his siblings.

when i reminded her that her own kids had benefited greatly from her being a sahm while dad was the sole breadwinner, she remarked that she had no choice back then. without much education, it was hard to find meaningful employment & as a result, she was unable to give us every advantage she felt we ought to have had.

so i told her that the best advantage she ever gave us was to be home for us & i would like to do the same for my kids. she demurred, but she observed that Someone up There must have been looking out for her children since we are all doing well today.

my mom. :)

Posted by: rachel | April 20, 2006 9:58 AM

I haven't had my baby yet, but I am planning on staying home. My mother-in-law already makes snide comments about this. I think it makes her feel threatened, as though my husband and I are saying that she made the wrong choice. She was just out of medical school when she had him and worked his whole life. I don't think that was a bad choice for her. They had quality childcare and she spent lots of time with him when she was home. She loved her career and was just starting out. Both personally and professionally she needed to be working. But I'm in a different field and a different spot in my life and in time.

Posted by: Elizabeth | April 20, 2006 10:06 AM

Kate:

I wish you the best of luck re-entering the workforce.

One of the things I would recommend is that you make sure on your resume that you take credit for employment-like activities that you have been involved with during the last 10 years. I've seen resumes that have included things like PTA officer, classroom volunteer, Co-operative Pre-School officer -- in each case when I interviewed the person it gave them the opportunity to demonstrate/talk to management skills that were applicable to the position for which they were applying.

Posted by: A Dad | April 20, 2006 10:06 AM

Weirdly enough I have one of those moms who really just wants me to be happy as myself. While I know she has visions of how she sees me, she COMPLETELY accepts and encourages my own choices and would never want me to do anything unless it made me happy.

Amazing how few moms like that really exist- considering how many CLAIM to the contrary.

Posted by: Liz | April 20, 2006 10:10 AM

Why should I care about what any mother (or father) thinks of whether I work or stay home?

My children are grown ups; they makes her own decisions. I keep my thoughts to myself, unless I am asked.

I would have been outraged if ANYONE told me when to have children, etc.

I agree completely with Scarry "The point is that you have to be happy with your choices and not worry about anyone else."

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 10:13 AM

My mom's mom was a widow who had to work at a time when most mom's stayed home and played June Cleaver. Because of this, my mom was passionate about being home with me and my brother. While she respected and admired her mother's grit and determination to privide for their little family of 2, she also didn't like being the only kid with a working mom and wanted to make sure she was at home for us. In order for her to do that, my parents made great sacrifices. They were poor enough to qualify for wellfare (I only found this out recently) but chose not to recieve assistance. Mom is a skilled pianist so she taught lessons out of our home and would take the occasional accompianist gig for school concerts and weddings. Despite my parents sacrifices to let her be at home, I never felt deprived. Sure, I felt a little sad when the other girls were going to ballet and brownies and I wasn't, but as I've gotten older, I've been able to recognize all the great things we did as a family. Mom was home to teach me to cook, play the piano (of course), go to the park, the library, make art, imagine and pretend together. So now that I'm a mom, working for the time being while my husband job searches, I know my mom understands why I'm at work. But if I chose to be a working out of the home mom, I know that she'd be disappointed, yet knowing where she's coming from, I can understand that. However, when my husband finds a job, I am so excited to go back to being a stay at home mom myself - doesn't mean I won't work, it will just be from home and part time, like the piano lessons she taught.

But, my mom did go back to work eventually. A fabulous teaching job presented itself when I was in 9th grade - 14 years out of the classroom. Since then, she has excelled in her field, gained national attention for some of her programs, and later this year will earn her masters degree at the age of 54. Her example is a constant reminder for me that you don't have to have at all by the time you are 25 or 30, that a rewarding career and really finding your niche and your passion can happen later in life. I can't wait to throw her a graduation party :)

Posted by: nat | April 20, 2006 10:14 AM

My dad has a very non-traditional job that involves a lot of traveling. Until I was 5 my mom traveled with my dad (she worked for him) and my sister and I stayed home with babysitters or grandparents. When I was 5, my parents opened their own business and we went to work with my parents. We were there after school, on the weekends, holidays.

It was a very different way to grow up. I learned so many things so quickly. My vocabulary was outstanding because I was around adults all the time. I learned that hard work does pay off and I saw up close and personal how hard my parents were working to provide for us. Heck, I knew how hard I was working to help provide for us.

It was such a unique opportunity to really understand my parents' lives. Most kids don't really "get" the pressures and stress and accolades and opportunities that happen for their parents outside of the home. We did and the parent-child relationship was better for it.

Posted by: E. Meredith | April 20, 2006 10:18 AM

I get more grief from my MIL than my mom. My mother has had a career since before I was born, and succesfully juggled working, volunteering, and 3 kids. My MIL never "had" to work, so she would do something for a few years, then quit when she got bored or annoyed and stay home for a while. She doesn't get why I choose to stay in a demanding job that requires travel, long hours, etc. (Apparently the face that I like my work and am well compensated doesn't matter.) I have no idea what she thinks a better alternative would be, though. I guess I should have married rich like she did but she can't complain...I'm married to her son!

Posted by: Arlingtonmom | April 20, 2006 10:19 AM

My mother divorced when I was six and had absolutely no money while she readjusted her life (went back to school etc). I have always wanted to work because I have always had a dread of being in such a financially insecure situation as my mother found herself in. I was home for six months with each of my kids and yes, it was really hard to go back to work but I think the benefits were good for everyone in my family. I'm a good, devoted mom. My mother has never had anything negative to say about my choices in life nor has my mother-in-law. I'm an early to work, home at 3 mom so I don't miss anytime with my kids. In fact both my mother and mother-in-law, who were both early 60's SAHMs are amazed at the amout of time that I have with my kids. I guess because of the times were expected to attend all kinds of women/volunteer functions and they just did not devote as much time to children as families do today (WMs and SAHMs).

Posted by: viennamom | April 20, 2006 10:33 AM

My mother worked (and still does), and so did both my grandmothers, great-aunts, etc. If I didn't work, I would be the first generation of women in my family to do so, as far as I know! Growing up I never saw not working as an option. I guess I still don't.

Posted by: Workinggrrl | April 20, 2006 10:35 AM


Reading some of the comments, I'm coming to realize how fortunate I am to have a mother and mother-in-law who both completely supported my wife's decision to give up a good professional career to become a SAHM.

In our case, it has worked out extremely well -- my wife has been able to build a strong network of professional friends, become involved in leadership positions within our childrens' schools, and provide the household management support that has allowed my professional career to advance. We are now in a position where I am fortunate enough to work primarily out of the home and still earn an income that allows us to easily maintain an upper-class lifestyle.

In the first 1-2 years as I was working very long hours for relatively low income, it would have been easy for either mother to question the decision to forego a substantial income source -- neither did [at least to us].

Posted by: A Dad | April 20, 2006 10:37 AM

I don't think I've ever actually had a conversation with my mother on the merits of working vs. staying home with the kids. And before I had kids, I don't believe I was thinking of anything other than continuing to work. My mother almost always worked (with three kids), probably in part, because neither nursing nor the ministry are exactly high paying professions. But I think the biggest part of it is that the economic advantages of working give you choices. You work, you save, and you can have the option of making different choices in various circumstances. I don't think my mother would have a problem with me being a SAHM but she also doesn't have a problem with me WOHM. She likes me to have the choice rather than being forced into one or the other because there IS no other option. My mother-in-law hasn't said too much on the subject. But she did once express concern for my children with me working outside the home. I didn't really let that bother me (even though I would have preferred her to be concerned that the kids didn't have a PARENT at home rather than specifically the mother. Why is the mother always blamed? :)). But she was always in a rather uneven power position(and I'm sorry but sometimes the person earning all the money has all the power in the family) with my father-in-law. She didn't work after getting married, even though they didn't have their 3 kids until a number of years later. She only had a high school diploma. He had a Ph.D. She really didn't know anything about their finances. She was completely dependent on him and I believe felt intellectually inferior to him. So personally, I have no problem with either choice, SAH parent vs WOH parent, for either mother or father. But there needs to be balance in the relationship, in decision making, and value placed on each one's contribution to the family unit, not just the one attached to a paycheck. Sorry, I may have gone off on a tangent here. Main point, my mother is fine with my choosing to work. You have to work for what you want in life and it's good to have choices.

Posted by: K | April 20, 2006 10:44 AM

There's value in the jobs women have - working 'outside the home' is not just a cute hobby - and I grew up just presuming that fact by default, since all the women in my family had their own jobs/careers as well as being parents.

I didn't grow up thinking it was an either/or, and that's why I'm so fascinated with these kinds of discussions now, since obviously other people are coming from situations with 180-degree different assumptions than mine.

Posted by: Workinggrrl | April 20, 2006 10:50 AM

I'm wondering why a grown person would call their mother for career advice...

Because maybe she values her mother's opinion, perspective, and life experience. I feel bad that you can't understand that. It shows something was seriously missing in your life.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 11:08 AM

My mom stayed at home with me and my sister until we were teens, at which time she took a series of temp jobs.

Now that I have a newborn baby and am heartsick at going back to work, she is practically begging me not to give up my career. She doesn't want me to end up in a bunch of stiflingly dull, low-paying jobs once my daughter grows up.

Still, it's hard to reconcile these two viewpoints: Mine and hers. Am I destined to feel guilt and regret no matter what I do?

Posted by: Chicagomom | April 20, 2006 11:10 AM

My mother graduated from college with no intention of marrying, much less having children. 24 years later, she has 3 children (22-me, 18, 15), no "career", and a happy marriage. My father is military and we moved every couple of years in addition to being deployed for 6 months at a time, so she never was able to take a full-time job with a clear career track. She always worked part-time or from home, but essentially she was a SAHM. I loved my childhood, we had so much fun with her wherever we lived and all three of us have turned out great. I always promised myself that when I have children I would try my best to give them the same childhood I had.
However, she thinks I'm crazy. My mother loves us, but thinks she has wasted her education (she got her master's while pregnant with my 15yo brother) and regrets not having a traditional career. Now that we're grown she wants to go back to work, but thinks she has no relevance to the workforce and doesn't want to get stuck being someone's secretary. When I told her that I wanted to be a SAHM, she told me she didn't want to see me turn out like she did and that I would regret it. Both of my parents have told me it's a mistake to have children before I'm 30 (they were 24 and 22) and they weren't happy with my decision to get married so young. I hope that by the time I have children of my own (I already have a 5yo stepson, but my husband only gets him 1 weekend a month), my mom will be more open to my choices.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 11:12 AM

The something seriously missing in my life is "Still, it's hard to reconcile these two viewpoints: Mine and hers. Am I destined to feel guilt and regret no matter what I do?"

Yup, no guilt and no regret and no need for you to "feel bad" for me.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 11:19 AM

I've always heard little jabs from various family members; mom, mom-in-law, grandmother, about the evils of my WOH. I'm an attorney and I knew I would lose my mind if I tried to SAH with my 2 girls. My brother also got on his high horse about the evils of daycare. My kids are both in elementary school now doing well. His kids, after years with SAHM, are all on various forms of Ritalin and having much trouble. Go figure.

Posted by: babby | April 20, 2006 11:25 AM

I am mother of a 10 month old beautiful baby girl and work full-time. I come from a family of 8 kids. My mom was SAHM and my did was the breadwinner(he was a well to do business man). But the unfortunate thing happened and my dad died when I was 10 years old. My mom had to raise 8 kids on her own and basically used all the money that was left from my dad's business to do so. She has never worked in her life, but her advice to her 6 daughters has always been to be financially independent. She has been a great source of support and helps greatly with raising her grandchildrens (3 so far).I love working, and am fortunate enough to work for a company that allows me work a flexible schedule (to work from home and my husband does the same thing)and be able to spend as much time as we can with our daughter.

Posted by: RMH | April 20, 2006 11:27 AM

I am glad you brought this subject up! My mother worked full time while raising three children and is very self-righteous about it. When I told her that I may stay at home (am actually back at work) when I was pregnant with my first child, she scoffed. She cannot imagine why any woman would not work. What she does not understand is 1) she had a lot of help - full time housekeeper/nanny and a mother nearby; 2) we lived in Manhattan where you don't need someone to drive kids everywhere and 3) my job is just not that fulfilling to me nor does it pay me enough to justify working when and if I have another child. I now work because we need me to for financial reasons and I do like it but wouldn't mind being at home either. I will most likely stay at home when I have a second child (at that point my husband plans to go back into the private sector after a stint in the government so we will be able to afford it), and I do not plan on telling my mother that until I have actually quit my job as I know she will not be supportive. I would consider working part time if my employer allowed it, but alas they do not and that is a topic for another day. The point is, my mother thinks that because she worked, all woman should. I should also note that I do not begrudge her for working while I was growing up, but I am not sure it is the right decision for me.

Posted by: Downtown DC | April 20, 2006 11:29 AM

I think the other issue, at least for my family, is that staying home would put us in a pretty precarious position financially. We're doing fine right now with two incomes, but with just one, we'd be scraping by, unable to save for today or for our retirement. But when I look at my daughter, I wonder if we are making the right tradeoff - more time with her v. financial security?

The big problem, in my opinion, is this country gives moms and dads the stingiest leaves imagineably, leaves that are only available, in many cases, to families with enough money to make it through weeks without an income as the mom stays home. I don't understand why families don't band togther and demand longer leaves. In Europe, mothers get many months longer than we do here, much of it paid. And there is less angst over going to work v. staying home because mothers get to spend much of that first year with their children, guilt-free and without risking their family's financial security.

And has this generous family policy bankrupted Europe? Nope.

Posted by: chicagomom | April 20, 2006 11:32 AM

"I do not plan on telling my mother that until I have actually quit my job as I know she will not be supportive."

Some folks don't understand that this is the year 2006!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 11:34 AM

Actually my mother and her experiences growing up had a strong influence on me, both on my going through school to get a PhD in science and being a working mother. She also had been a sharp student with an aptitude for numbers and dreamed of being an architect (like her father) or an engineer. However her parents didn't agree, and although they were briefly persuaded by one of her high school teachers to allow her to attend college (where she studied physics), after a year they sent her to secretary school instead... she worked a few years after marrying my father and then was a stay at home mother to our large brood. At one point when there were *only* five of us, she had plans to go back to college to be a teacher, but when she found she was again pregnant that went by the wayside. So anyway I suppose I felt like her surrogate in some ways as I zoomed through school, and she was always very supportive of me and my career choices. And never gave me trouble about my child care choices, although I do recall she was dubious about my wanting to nurse my babies, since that wasn't considered the "modern" or right thing when she had hers, that was the only thing I remember clashing on.

Also my grandmother, her mother, had been a totally dependent stay at home mother (didn't drive, had no idea about the family finances) when she was widowed in her mid forties and had to find a job to keep her 3 children housed and fed. I think that memory of hers also made her strongly in favor of her daughters being able to support themselves.

Now my daughter is starting graduate school in science too. I would support whatever she chose to do, and would not want to impose my choices on her. However I do admit that I was somewhat relieved this year when she chose to end her relationship with her boyfriend, partly because it would have inhibited her choice of where to go to graduate school. I mean obviously it is not my business who she is involved with but I am glad she is not limiting herself at this young age. If and when she decides to get married and/or have children, I will support whatever she wants to do then too.

Posted by: Catherine | April 20, 2006 11:39 AM

my mom stayed home with my sister and i until i was 12 and my sister was 9. we got the best of both worlds--we had a mom who was PTA president, sewed costumes for school plays, went on field trips, and made our house work on a single income and a mom who returned to her career as a teacher while still attending games, plays, and sewing costumes for performances etc. it also taught my sister and i independence and forced us to help more around the house.
i am jealous that my mom had the option to stay home for 12 years. i live in an expensive location and don't think it would be financially possible for me to do, and my mom knows this too. i think you can work outside the home and still be a wonderful, loving parent. i also think in some ways not having mom and dad around every minute to fix every problem teaches kids to be independent thinkers and develop their own sense of the world, which is invaluable for life.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 11:42 AM

Kitty wrote:
"Fast forward a decade or so, and now I'm a stay-at-home Mom and I absolutely LOVE it. I never thought I would be happy staying home, but I couldn't imagine paying someone else for the privilege of raising my child. There will always be time to work when my child is older and needs me less, but for now the place I need to be is at home - for the sake of my child and my own sanity. Yes, it's hard to deprive myself of the little luxuries that I enjoyed while I worked, but I know that my son is safe and happy with me and that makes the sacrifice worthwhile."

It sounds like you are staying at home entirely for your own reasons. That's fine but don't try to tell us that it is in the best interest of the kid's safety and happiness.

Also, daycare is not paying someone to "raise" your child. What you do all day is not anymore important than what working mothers do when they get home. It's not like you spend the entire day teaching your kid how to grow up and be successful and independent. The kid plays, sleeps, eats, and you get to be around for it. That's fine but don't act like it is some great sacrifice. You don't "need" to be there, you "want" to be there.

Posted by: LC | April 20, 2006 11:44 AM

"Some folks don't understand that this is the year 2006!"

My mother fully understands that it is 2006 and she is (rightly so) concerned about me not using my education and skills as well as the possibility that one day I may not have my husband's income to rely on. She is completely correct about those issues, but not necessarily about personal fulfillment. It's also her self-righteousness and non-support of my would-be choice that really irks me.

Posted by: Downtown DC | April 20, 2006 11:45 AM

I wanted to point out *The New Republic*'s recent (and excellent) editorial on "The Mommy Wars."

http://www.tnr.com/doc_posts.mhtml?i=20060501&s=editorial050106

or go to www.tnr.com and click on it from the front page.

Posted by: Kate | April 20, 2006 11:46 AM

My mother worked part time while she raised 4 kids. She went to full time work after my younger brother turned 5.
Now she es a top executive at a biotech lab. She has had an excellent career and has been an excellent mother as well. It never ocurred to me to stop working after having kids, I have a one year old now, and work full time with a flexible schedule. My parents support my decision and so does my husband, of course.
ML

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 11:49 AM

Um, Chicagomom, all those nice European entitlements ARE bankrupting the countries who have them. Just pick up an issue of the Economist, read the international section of the newspaper. If a country only had to support one or two entitlements, it might work. But with a greying population, and low birth rates many European countries have a hard time keeping up.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 11:57 AM

In reading through the comments here, I began thinking about how the nature of work has changed between my mom's generation and mine and wonder how that influences our decisions about being working moms. My husband and I are 40 and back when we were kids there was still a 9-to-5 mindset for most white collar workers. This meant that even our dads, both executives, pretty much knocked off around 5 pm and were home for dinner and family time. Now, for professionals (at least in workaholic DC!), working well past 5 is both a given and, by many employers, expected. Sorry, I've gotten a bit off topic here -- I was lucky enough to have a mom who felt the choice was mine and supported my decisions -- but it is interesting to think about what working means now (with boundaries between work and home eroding) vs. then when 9-5 was the norm.

Posted by: carolinagirl | April 20, 2006 11:57 AM

Everyone should do what makes them happy. I'm the child of immigrants and both parents as well as my grandparents worked really hard to build a life for themselves in a new country. My Mom actually quit work when I was born, only to beg for her job back 6 months later. She was just the type of personality that needed stimulation and meaning outside the home, and I know I'm the same. I grew up seeing my Mom interact with colleagues and this probably has influenced my life choices to a great extent. I never felt neglected or that I was missing something because both parents worked outside the home. We had a good support network and my brother and I were really independent from a young age and took great pride in doing a lot of things for ourselves.
My grandmother had grown up in the Austro-Hungarian empire and was denied an education by her father (girls did not become doctors), and she instilled in me a love of learning and an appreciation of the opportunities that she never had. Having lost everything in the war, she also made sure I learned to be financially independent, so that if anything ever happened, I could stay afloat. For me, this need for security, and a desire to be intellectually engaged in an interesting job means that I'll always work. My husband supports me completely--he'll probably be the one taking leave if we have kids. Being a young home-owner in this area, there is really no option or choice in the matter--we need two salaries, and that's how it will be for quite a while. What I think is unfortunate is that a lot of workplaces don't try to give employees a balanced life. I'm really lucky where I am--it's a pretty consistent 9-5 day, with time to do different things in the evenings and free weekends. There is always work to be done, but life outside of work is also valued. I wish it were the case for more companies.

Posted by: DORAMI | April 20, 2006 12:10 PM

My mom was married three times and had three families (I was born to her third husband). After her third marriage failed, she found herself alone in 1971 at 40-years-old with two babies and a 13-year-old to support. She had no education beyond high school and very little work experience. Needless to say, our socioeconomic status was at the bottom of the heap.

I knew from the time I was in grade school that the only way I would have control over my own destiny and escape poverty was to get an education and NEVER rely on a man. When my husband left us, I was not financially devastated and I am able to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.

My mother is quite pleased that I learned from her experiences. She never wanted to see me in the same position she was in, and she certainly doesn't want to see her granddaughter growing up on public assistance. My mother would have been terribly concerned if I had opted to stay at home (which never was an option because my husband did not have a very good work ethic after we were married).

Bottom line: any woman who gives up a career and makes herself dependent on her husband is taking a risk. And with some 50% of marriages ending in divorce, those are not odds that I was willing to take, especially with a child involved. I never wanted to be in a position where I was forced to stay in a bad situation (so many domestic violence victims stay with abusive husbands because they are financially dependent upon them, and emotionally dependent as well).

Of course, many husbands and wives are very happy and respect each other's roles in the marriage. Unfortunately, this was once the norm, but now it's the exception.

Posted by: western single mom | April 20, 2006 12:10 PM

Is a WOH mom or SAH mom better? Niether; the best option is to be in the position to at least have a choice in the matter and not be forced one way or the other.

I envy my mom becuase she had a choice. Having kids in the 80's in the DC area wasn't nearly as tough as it is now...my dad made decent money and they were able to buy a home on just his salary. She chose to stay at home, be an active girl scout mom and we still had enough money for vacations, toys, and many other perks. But for me and my siblings, it just isn't that easy. Me and my husband have to both work to own a house, I don't know if we can ever afford a kid. And that's fine, I like my job and if we do have a kid one day I don't mind working.

So if you have an option in this matter--feel blessed and just do what ever makes you happy.

Posted by: novakid | April 20, 2006 1:00 PM

I have 7 siblings, and the only stay-at-home mom of the group. I have to admit I am envied by my successful sisters and sister-in-laws, but I envy them in return. I quit work after my second child was born, and have a decade of experience. I use my skills tutoring children in math. I have given up much to be there for my children and husband, but it is what works for my family. My children are top 1% students, and totally geared towards careers. I will go back to work when they are older, but I am lucky enough to have a successful marriage, a successful husband, and successful children. Why wait until retirement to take some years off? I will work through my 70s (like my mom) which is when people should be most active. Too many people are working hard so they can retire at 60. By then, you kids are too busy. I will do retirement now, and work until I die, and never have any regrets.

Posted by: Karen | April 20, 2006 1:04 PM

My mom stayed at home to take care of us. As a result she's super supportive of me having kids and a career at the same time. She always regrets her lack of a career and is very proud of all my achievements. That being said I don't think she would be supportive if I had a baby and went back to work within 2 months--her rule has always been that I should breastfeed and take care of an infant for the first 3 months and consider day care after that.

Posted by: Manjari | April 20, 2006 1:24 PM

My mother was a nurse for 8 years before she and my dad got married, and she put him through college. She was a SAHM until the youngest (4 kids) was in Jr. High--however, she put in 20 or 30 hours a week before she went back to work as a volunteer in Girl Scouts, PTA, etc. She encouraged all her daughters to have a career, not just a job. My mom, too, really blossomed when she went back to work. She is very proud of all of us.

Posted by: DC | April 20, 2006 1:28 PM

I'm a WOH mom, and my mom (who was SAHM) doesn't understand it at all! She also was horrified that I breastfed instead of using formula. It just shows you how times change.

Kind of off topic, but two things I've been wanting to post:

Can we PLEASE get over the notion that the only reasons moms work are for selfish gratification and to buy McMansions and nice cars? I work to provide my daughter with a (small, apartment) roof over her head and health insurance benefits. Is that wrong?

Second, I think a lot of SAHMs don't realize that there are some truly wonderful paid childcare providers out there. My daughter has been with the same daycare since she was an infant and she loves, loves, loves going there. Usually she's half day, but she gets so excited about her once a week full day. The people there are so loving and caring and fun -- I wish SAHMs could see how much my daughter gets out of paid childcare. They might be less smug after that.

Posted by: WOH mom | April 20, 2006 1:32 PM

I was told by my mother that women who love their children stay at home, and women who work do not love their children. (She also told me that a husband should be smarter than his wife because that means he could work and she could stay home with the kids). As a teenager, I looked at my mother's SAH life, said "screw that," and decided that if I had to choose between a career and children, I would choose a career, not a doubt in my mind. It wasn't until midway through college that I finally got it through my head that I didn't have to make that choice.

I'm 22 and headed to grad school for a PhD. (So much for being dumber than my future husband). I can't say with any degree of certainty what my life will be like - none of us really knows. But I believe that my education is not only an investment in my future, but in my children's future as well. I know that for me, the best way for me to be a good mom would be to work in my chosen profession and be a good role model for my sons and daughters. And if my mom disapproves, that's too damn bad.

Posted by: fc | April 20, 2006 1:35 PM

For me, it's my MIL who has an issue with me working, which she lets me know with passive-aggressive comments like, "they're only little for so long," or "they grow up so fast and it's such a shame to miss this time with them." However, if we made a decision for one parent to stay home, from an economic, benefit, job retention, ability to reenter the job force, etc. POV, my HUSBAND would be the one who should stay at home (I make more than twice what he does, have excellent benefits (health, insurance, leave, etc.), and am hard to fire (government job). However, his field is much more flexible, so if he took time off he could reenter it much more easily. Yet his mother would NEVER consider it acceptable for him to stay home. Plus, he loves our daughters dearly, but he's a lot more harsh with them than I am, and much more demanding. So, from an emotional POV, it would make more sense for me to stay home. All that said, after some horrible experiences with day care (where my daughter was abused) we made the decision to go with an au pair. And it's been wonderful. Regardless of what some posters say about the "privilege" of paying other people to raise your children, this has been an exceptional experience for us. And my daughters spend the day with someone who loves them and who they love in return - and what in the world is wrong with children having more people in their lives who love them and care for them? They don't have to be related by blood. We looked at all our options and decided this would be best, and we're extremely glad that we did, regardless of the little comments from the MIL.

Posted by: Allmomsareworkingmoms | April 20, 2006 1:42 PM

Hey FC, "I'm 22 and headed to grad school for a PhD. (So much for being dumber than my future husband)."

Just want to say that there are some smart men out there. A few might even be smarter than a PhD. True, a majority will be dumber. :) My wife's a PhD and we're still not sure who's smarter. :)

Posted by: Father of 2 | April 20, 2006 1:45 PM

I worked for several years before having children, then was priviliged to stay home with my two dauhters for 9 years, I returned to work part-time and then worked my way up to full time as my daughters got older. To those worried about returning to the work force DON'T BE. It will work out. My work after staying home has actually been much more rewarding than before.

How do I feel about my daughters working or staying at home? I want them to follow their own hearts. So far, my first daughter has found a job share situation which fits hers and her family's needs well. She is a physician, and she shares a position in private practice with another physician mom.

My second daughter is yet to have children, but has already realized that, although she would love to be SAH, she will probably have to work at least part-time (hopefully from home) in order to stay current in her career.

I wouldn't have given up my time at home for anything, but that was my decision. My daughers will each decide what is right for them. I am grateful that they trust my judgement enough to have asked for my advice on the matter.

Posted by: BeenThere | April 20, 2006 2:00 PM

This blog is so cool. Just think, everyone reading it is NOT spending quality time with their children! So much for devotion to the little darlings! Sarcasm, sure, but remember we all have the same goal; happy, healthy families. We are each responsible for our own choices.

Posted by: babby | April 20, 2006 2:11 PM

I see a lot of smugness with the SAHMs who think they can just jump right back into the workforce after being gone for 10 or even 20 years.

I've even seen it at my work place, except when they are hired, it's usually entry level and then they are working with the 24 year olds. I our world skills change quickly and it's naive even self centered to think that you are so good that you can take jobs away from someone who has been working all along.

And, if I saw the PTA or girl scouts on a resume, I’d laugh on the inside; even college girls have more work experience than that.

Posted by: get real | April 20, 2006 2:17 PM

FC, did your mother seriously say those things to you? That's shocking to me. I think you had the right reaction, though. Sounds like your life is on a good track.

Posted by: Workinggrrl | April 20, 2006 2:23 PM

Could we also get over the idea (the flip side of women who work are doing so for McMansions and BMWs) that the only acceptable reason for a woman to work after she has kids is financial necessity? I know women who are honest enough with themselves to know that they would be unhappy and bored and unsatisfied if they stayed at home, and want at least part-time work. I also know women who have interesting and fulfilling careers that they love and don't want to give up because they have children. Yes, having kids entails sacrifices. One of those sacrifices should not be your entire identity. Really, it's okay to keep working because you like your job. It doesn't make your a bad mother, or mean that you love your kids less, or mean that you are a terrible selfish person. It means that your kids will have a happy, fulfilled mother who didn't make herself miserable trying to conform to some cultural ideal. A majority of kids in this country are raised by working parents. I was one of them. I never resented that my mom worked, or thought she didn't love me as much as mothers who stayed home, or felt deprived in any way. My (working) parents were happy and provided me with a stable, loving environment in which to grow. If you want to stay home, super. If you don't want to, super. As long as your kids are fed and clothed and disciplined and encouraged and loved, you're a good parent.

Posted by: Ann | April 20, 2006 2:28 PM

Get real, YOUR smugness is a bit much as well.....

I had fifteen years of professional experience prior to becoming a SAHM, and have kept current with very small contracting projects. Yet the thing I am most proud of is the organization of an environmental fair at my daughters pre-school. When I try to resume a part-time career this fall I will put that on my resume, it was hard work, and came off great. No different than anything I had done with event planning in previous jobs.

Posted by: NCBlue | April 20, 2006 2:52 PM

My mom always worked when I was growing up with my two sisters. In a way, it was a very ideal situation: she worked days, usually in an office as part of the string of part-time or temp jobs she would find, while my father worked nights.
They would meet at home shortly after we arrived from school. Dad would have started the chicken and vegetables, we would set the table. We all sat down to eat an early supper, then my dad went to work for the night shift.
When it comes to me working or staying at home, my mother's philosphy is what it has always been: you have to do what you have to do. If your family needs you to work, you work. But with a baby son, she also felt that I should stay home with him for a while, and freelance if I can.
My employer may not like it now that I'm home. But my son is thrilled.

Posted by: LaurieL | April 20, 2006 2:53 PM

My mother worked part or full time all while my brother and I grew up. Her mother worked full time while my mother grew up. My great grandmother worked full time while my grandmother grew up. My great great grandmother worked full time while my great grandmother grew up.

My mother was the first in 4 generations to not be a widowed mother. The other 3 generations lost their husbands before their oldest child was 4 years old, from various causes: lightning strike, influenza epidemic, German grenade in the chest. None of them ever remarried.

The end result has been that I was taught from when I was about 2 years old on, to never depend on any man to be around. Have a career and never leave it, because who knows if you can get it back.

I wonder how many of these women who are willing to give up their careers have a contingency plan in case they lose their husbands - just from the freaky things that happen in life. Afterall, that job you had before you left probably isn't there anymore.

Posted by: Anon | April 20, 2006 2:53 PM

I'm must be one of the lucky ones since my mother has never said a word questioning my decision, back when I was working out of the home, nor now that I'm SAH. My sister has always WOH and she is nothing but supportive of that choice as well. My step-MIL is the most vocally supportive of our current arrangement, but her support is so filled with criticism of women who choose to work out of the home that I'd rather she just keep her mouth shut. I'm not making a universally better choice - just the best choice for MY family and it bugs her that I won't jump on the anti-working woman bandwagon along with her.

I do chuckle a bit to myself when I hear the expression "fortunate enough to stay home". For us, there was little choice. Once our second child was born, the cost of daycare exceeded my take home pay by $60 a month - I liked my job, but not enough to pay to do it! Had my job paid enough to afford quality child care without requiring a 60 hour work week, heck, I might have stayed. But in my field, that balance just wasn't something I could figure out and something had to go.

I'm the exception among my friends and family - most women I know work out of the home. Again, I must be lucky because I detect none of the conflict that the media loves to feed on. I (and other sahms) help them out occassionally with those errands and tasks that are hard to take care of while working 8-5 and emergency childcare. My WOH friends, especially the ones who work in the same field I once did, keep me posted on what's going on and let me know about the occassional bit of work that I can do from home when it comes up, never treating me as a lesser person for not bringing home a paycheck. We know that we are making the best decision we can with what we have. Now the working parent who never makes time to see their child or the SAH parent who's choice (assuming that it actually is a choice) is forcing their family into poverty might be the object of a question or two - but they are really, really more the exception than the rule.

Posted by: LF | April 20, 2006 2:54 PM

get real -

Your comments are interesting. I'd like to hear more about the SAHMs at your company who have been out of the workforce. What types of entry-level positions are they given? Do you know what their educational level or work history is?

Posted by: MBA Mom | April 20, 2006 2:58 PM

This has come up a few times so I want to address it. Of the one wage earner families I know well enough to have talked about this, we have ALL had frank convesations about what would happen if something happened to the current wage earner and, yes, there is typically a "plan" so to speak. It'll be rough, but if something happened to my husband today, I know how I'd get back on my feet again. We'll be OK.

Posted by: LF | April 20, 2006 3:05 PM

My mother often makes snide little comments about the fact that I am WOH mom. The thing that bothers me the most about it is that her mother was a WOH mom and so was my paternal grandmother. They had to just to barely stay middle class. I frequently remind my mother that her generation was the first to stay home at the middle class level in large numbers. I'm in my 30s, mom is a baby boomer. And also have to remind her that thanks to her generation I can do whatever I want verse the cleaning/daycare/bakery/church jobs my grandmothers held - at low pay.

Posted by: KJ Mom | April 20, 2006 3:10 PM

My mom fully supports my decision to work outside the home -- I think she would freak a little if I decided NOT to. She lived the women's movement -- was taught as a child that her primary goal should be to find a good (i.e., wealthy) husband, and that if she wanted to work (as a secretary, nurse, or teacher) until then, that was fine, but she'd of course stop once she had a baby. But she just always knew she needed to work. After my dad left when I was about 2 1/2, she didn't have a choice -- but even then, she always told me that I was the most important thing in her life, but I wasn't the ONLY thing in her life, and that working was just part of who she was and something she needed to do to be a whole person.

The most important thing I learned from her was to be prepared to support myself. We were very poor for a number of years (she made less than $20,000/yr even when I was in college), and I didn't ever want to go there again. But beyond the financials, I saw the importance of the satisfaction she took from her career. She felt stifled by the role she was forced to assume growing up, and ultimately found her outlet as a college professor -- I think she appreciated having a successful career even more because she had to fight so hard to get there. She also constantly stressed to me that I could be anything I wanted to be, stereotypes be damned, and reveled in my academic success and ultimate decision to become a lawyer (a path that had been closed off to her).

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, I took her by surprise when I mentioned several years ago that once we had kids, I'd probably go part-time for a while. She gave me the "I don't know why you'd need to do that, I managed you while still working full-time" speech. I actually laughed at that, and pointed out to her that she didn't have a clue about "office jobs" -- because she was a college professor, she was almost always able to arrange her schedule to be home by 4 or 4:30. Not that it was an easy schedule -- she worked every night and weekend (she works harder than almost anyone I know) -- but she could at least do it from home and not have to worry about where I was or what I was doing after school. That's very different from law firm life, where you're supposed to be in an office billing 50-60+ hr weeks. So she backed off. And I'm happily working at my firm on an 80% schedule -- and luckily, I found a place that doesn't care about face time, as long as you get the job done. And now, my mom is even MORE proud of me for following my own path (even though it differed from hers a bit) and finding a way to make it all happen.

Posted by: Laura | April 20, 2006 3:12 PM

My mother's parents discouraged her from studying math and physics ("How will you ever find a husband?"), she encouraged me to study what I wanted. She also imparted to me the importance of always being able to support myself -- financially and emotionally. No slams on men, just building me up as a person so I had more parity in a relationship and I didn't have to settle. She worked, in home and outside the home. She still does. Dad also encouraged me to go as far as I could, I remember his tears as he realized there was only one subject left he could help me with, I'd far surpassed him in science and math.
In turn, neither make comments on our choices. I make more money than my husband, we both work because it's important to US. We were lucky with daycare for our daughter, she's had wonderful providers who clearly adore her. We value the time we have with her. More important, she has exposure to all the possibilities in her life. I want her to know her mother was in the military and worked hard to make sure she grew up free and able to do what she wanted.

Posted by: Team Grace | April 20, 2006 3:16 PM

BeenThere wrote:
"I worked for several years before having children, then was priviliged to stay home with my two dauhters for 9 years"

Not everyone considers staying at home with their children a privilege. Women never had to fight for the right to stay at home. However, women fought for years for the opportunity to have great careers. What you refer to as privilege is actually a choice that you always had.

By calling it a privilege, you are assuming that every working woman would rather be at home with the kids, and discounting the fact that women fought long and hard to be able to make choices about what makes them happy and fulfilled.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 3:34 PM

Just commenting on these comments:

"I worked for several years before having children, then was priviliged to stay home with my two dauhters for 9 years"

"What you refer to as privilege is actually a choice that you always had."

This is not actually true. Some women do not have the choice to stay home. They have to work in order to pay the bills, help pay the bills, or get by. Many people can not afford to lose a second income, and it isn't necessarily because they live extravagant lives. So for her, it may be a privilege, because she may have wanted it that way. I know a few friends who WANT to stay home for a few years, but due to finances, can't.

"By calling it a privilege, you are assuming that every working woman would rather be at home with the kids, and discounting the fact that women fought long and hard to be able to make choices about what makes them happy and fulfilled."

I think calling staying home a 'privilege' represents a viewpoint. Every woman alive knows how hard women had to fight to make the choices that makes them happy and fulfilled.

Anyone who is lucky enough to be in a position where they can 'choose' to work or stay home should feel privileged, because a lot of women don't have those choices, and lets face it, we still, in America, have a societal bias toward fathers who stay home.

Are they going to have to earn that right? Or did women entering the workforce and seeking careers open up the choice for them, as well?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 3:58 PM

My mother stayed at home; had she worked she might have been running Citibank or a similar organization. She is extremely well organized and spent every waking moment cooking, cleaning, sewing, gardening, etc. The clothes hanging in our closets were organized by color. She vaccumed the garage.

I work almost full time and am in graduate school (I worked part time when my children were younger and in daycare). I have a cleaning lady who comes in every week. In a way I feel guilty that all the work Mom did while I was growing up is devalued by me to the point that I hire it out. I thought about staying home when my children were first born; my mother was encouraging but my dad told me I should not even consider it. He was right.

Posted by: Anne | April 20, 2006 4:01 PM

I recently retired after always working since college. I was able to take off 3 months with my first daughter and 10 weeks with the next. I received mixed messages from my mother, who began working when I was 12 years old. She definitely wanted me to be independent but she had reservations about me being in a job where I had to work away from home every day and didn't have the summers off (like she did). In fact, to this day, she blames my work for my younger daughter's temper tantrums when she was a young child. That this daughter is now a wonderful young woman (with no children yet), who impresses everyone with her maturity, doesn't matter. The only advice I can give is to develop a thick skin whether you stay at home or work.

Posted by: Always worked | April 20, 2006 4:03 PM

In defense of BeenThere: a number of people on this blog have pointed out that it IS a privilege to stay home. Single parents don't have that option. Parents trying to raise a family on minimum wage don't have that option. And a lot of middle class families in this area have trouble making that a viable option in this part of the country. Personally, it is not my choice to stay home, and I am extremely grateful to the women like my mom who fought so that I would have the option to have a fulfilling career (see my post above). But I also appreciate the fact that BeenThere doesn't take her situation for granted, because a lot of women who would like to stay home don't have that option as she did.

Posted by: Laura | April 20, 2006 4:05 PM

I agree that being a SAHM is a privilage. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I am much happier on the days I work from home and can take tickle breaks and eat lunch with my daughter.

I think by someone calling it a priviage, they are just happy they got to do it. Like i'm happy I get to work from home a few days a week.

Posted by: Scarry | April 20, 2006 4:10 PM

Personally, I love my child far more than I ever loved my job and staying home with him just makes sense to me. I understand that many women have to work in order to pay the bills, but many work for pure enjoyment - to the detriment of their kids.

When my baby was born, I realized that life is no longer all about me and what I want - I have to think about what's best for my child. In my case, being available to him 24/7 is more important right now than the fact that I miss working. I know that I will probably never go back to work at the same level as before, but I'm OK with that.

My mother and MIL are very supportive of my decision to stay home. I think if a woman resents giving up a career for her child, the child is better off in daycare.
Otherwise, it's best for the mom to be at home.

Posted by: Kitty | April 20, 2006 4:19 PM

My mother didn't ever work, she had a full calendar of tennis, bridge club, garden club, and church to fill her days.

When I was in college my father had a talk with me and said that while my mother had never worked he thought (probably from his regular reading of Newsweek magazine) that I would need to work and that I should plan on a career that paid well. His thinking was that if you were going to have to work you might as well do something where the pay was good.

So off I went. I've worked through two children who have managed not to land in jail, so I think I've done well enough.

Posted by: RoseG | April 20, 2006 4:28 PM

"Personally, I love my child far more than I ever loved my job and staying home with him just makes sense to me. I understand that many women have to work in order to pay the bills, but many work for pure enjoyment - to the detriment of their kids."

Kitty, you are an idiot. What mother doesn't love their child more than their job. Your attitude is unfortunate. I hope that you don't have any daughters.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 4:38 PM

My mother has worked my entire life, and I am 41. She has been a systems engineer since the early 60s, and retired 2 years ago only to take on another full time job the following Monday because she loves what she does and is extremely good at it. She never made a big deal out of it and I grew up never thinking it was a big deal for women to work or have important jobs. Frankly, I never understood the women's movement in my youth because I never witnessed any kind of oppression of women and both of my parents never represented it as any kind of big deal. My father was a college professor who loved to cook and did as much or more childcare than my mother did. It was a given that I would go to college and have career aspirations and have a family as well.

I am an attorney, and took an extended maternity leave and am now working full time with a 17 month old in great daycare.

My mother is, and has always been supportive of my working, of my sister being a SAHM for 12 years (she now works) and, frankly, whatever work/education/family choices we have made over the years.

Her advice has always been to study and do something that interests you and success will follow, and I credit her for my being able to work and be an older mom and rarely, if ever, feel guilty about my choices. She is thrilled for me when I have a work accomplishment, she would be thrilled for me if I told her I was going to stay home full time with my daughter. As long and I am a responsible caring person, she has never criticized my choices and has done what she can to be supportive and I hope I can be as good a mother in this area as she has been.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 4:38 PM

THis is really an unneccessary comment. How do you know what is best for all kids? You only know what is best for your kid, just like I only know what is best for mine.


"I understand that many women have to work in order to pay the bills, but many work for pure enjoyment - to the detriment of their kids."

Posted by: Scarry | April 20, 2006 4:39 PM

Kitty,
Many mothers are around their kids 24/7 - to the detriment of their kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 4:40 PM

My mom was a SAHM from 1957 to 1970, when she defied my very
traditional and rigid father and
got a part-time job. My youngest
sister was in grade school, larger
amounts of the day were now "free"
for her -- and she needed significant and expensive dental work and our family did not have dental insurance. My father was livid, he thought his masculinity had been ground to bits. However, he also had a job that was barely keeping a family of 6 afloat and he refused to find another job with a (hopefully) higher salary.
Needless to say, all 4 of my siblings watched what went on -- kids not only hear what is said, but what their parents do. Mom was a lot happier, she did get her dental work done, and there were a few more $$ in the home. No one suffered as she worked between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. We 4 kids picked up some of the "slack" around the house. (My father refused to lift a finger.)
In 1977, when my father died, Mom revved up and was working full-time in short order. She finally retired about 8 years ago, at age 72. Before I was born in 1957, she worked for 13 years as a legal secretary. The truth is that *she* would have made an excellent lawyer and, possibly, judge. The times were different, then she signed on for marriage at a time, in a place, with a man who felt SAHM was right. Well, it was -- for a while. None of the 3 of us girls in the family have ever been SAHM's and it's not just because our "menfolk" might die or we're afraid of what it means to be dependent on a husband. It's because we watched our mother, who was an excellent SAHM, also bloom and thrive when she was working outside the home.
She has mentioned a few times over the years that *she* wished she'd been coming of age in the 1970s when more opportunities opened for women. I wish she'd had those opportunities, too!

Posted by: SF Mom | April 20, 2006 4:47 PM

SF MOM,

Your mom sounds like a wonderful and interesting lady. My father in law was the same way when my mother in law went back to school. He wouldn't even go to her graduation. I hope you are lucky like I am to have a supportive husband who pushes you to be your very best, no matter what that best is. Good for your mom!

Posted by: Scarry | April 20, 2006 4:52 PM

Yes, good for your Mom. It's bad enough to have your husband limiting your growth. So why are women doing the same thing to each other? (right Kitty?)

Posted by: LC | April 20, 2006 4:54 PM

Thank you to the supportive comments about returning to work after a long absence. I read them earlier today and was really delighted by them.

As for the person ("get real" is the userid), who belittles those of us returning, I am not surprised but it's all right. If you would do us one little favor -- please wear a button or t-shirt that identifies you, so we know to steer clear. It would help so much.

In the same vein, I never minded working with very sexist men, because I always knew where they stood. It was the silent sufferers that concerned me.

I will take the advice of people who suggest including volunteer experience if it can be tied to the job I'm seeking. I'm proud to be a scout leader. I've also coached sports, too. But, coaching isn't superior to Girl Scouts.

Fortunately, I have other professional experience from the decade before staying home. And, my computer and other skills are up to date, too.

But even if they weren't, I have the example of my own mother.
She stayed home 20 years, and she returned to paid work when she needed to do so.

Working isn't rocket science, unless of course, that's your field.

Posted by: Kate | April 20, 2006 5:40 PM

My mother never said anything directly about me working since she was aware that the money was needed. However, there was an underlying attitude that she couldn't quite understand why my husband wasn't able to make enough money to support his family (Blue collar guy in a white collar world with periods of unemployment due to jobs evaporating.)

I married my husband because I loved him and he is a wonderful person even though we will both have to work to maintain a reasonable lifestyle for our families. My biggest disappointment has always been my best friend who seems to think that my husband just isn't "good enough" because he can't support our family on his own.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 5:48 PM

LC,

Why are you so self righteous? I find your posts rather incendiary in nature. Hey if you have guilt about working leave those who SAH alone and let them express why they enjoy staying at home. I have seen working moms post how content they are and how much better off their children are for having them work. Please be consistent with your criticism of others. If SAHM can’t be happy why should working moms?

Posted by: Iowa Mom | April 20, 2006 5:53 PM

Fine, I was harsh, but you have to understand that if you leave the work force for an extended period of time, you don't deserve the same title, money, job, as a working mother who has been there all along.

To MBA mom:

One lady was an editor who got mad because a younger girl was in a higher position than her. The girl had a master's degree and had no break in her work history.

I also heard that another lady interviewed for a management position and was offended because the hiring manager told her she had a good degree but no workable experience for the position. He told her to interview for another job with the company.

It may sound nasty but it's true, just like it's true that if you are a working mother who can't stay late on the big projects, you can expect that the people who can get promotions before you.

That’s life, who ever told you that you could have it all lied. I mean do you want to be operated on by a doctor who hasn’t practiced in ten years?

Posted by: get real | April 20, 2006 5:57 PM

For the returning to the workforce women:
If you can't continue to take part time work, taking a certification course is a lot better, in the eyes of today's employers, than putting PTA on your resume. I'm not putting down the PTA, I'm being realistic. When my son was born, my husband was laid off. The longer he was out of the workforce, the harder it was to get call backs. After he took a training course in a different software, he had multiple job offers for good (equal)money. I've seen this repeated with SAHM women multiple times: take a course and use the university's career placement office to help you get interviews. That bypasses the biased people. You are more likely to preserve earning power. If you don't do this, then you will probably have to go back to entry level positions. Employers just don't tend to respect the stuff SAHM's do. Again, I'm not putting that stuff down; I'm pointing out that the prejudice is there, a nd this is a way around it.

The best mother is a happy mother. If the mom is happy, the kid will be fine. If the mother is unhappy, whether SAHM or WOM, the child will be affected. Neither is better to me.

Posted by: Domini | April 20, 2006 6:11 PM

"If the mother is unhappy, whether SAHM or WOM, the child will be affected. Neither is better to me."

Yes. Shortly before I left my job, my husband and I found ourselves at a dinner party with several couples older than us and almost all the women had been SAHMs. There was a lot of self-rightousness and crowing about all that they "gave up" to raise their kids and their "huge sacrifices" but it was (((sigh))) so "worth it" ((sigh)). When we left I told my husband that if I ever sounded like one of those moms that it was a sign I needed to get back into cubicle-land asap. How toxic it must have been to be raised by them.

There are lots of ways to raise kids well and both SAHMs and WOHMs can do it. But martyrs - not so much.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 9:04 PM

My mom worked a little before she got married and then was out of the work force for about 10 years while we kids were little. When the youngest was in kindergarten, mom went to school to become a nurse. She worked part time for years and then full-time when we were in college, to help pay for our educations.

She always pushed her daughters to get an education and professional skills so that we would not be dependent on a man. It was always very important to her to raise us to be able to support ourselves and any children we might have. She also steered us toward careers that were female-dominated (my sister is a teacher and I am a speech therapist) but strongly advised us not to become nurses.

I think she is very proud that both of her daughters have Master's degrees and good jobs. We have each spent some time being the main breadwinners in our families.

At times, I've resented how much my mom influenced my choice of career--she really discouraged me when I was interested in more "masculine" types of careers. She's also really (still) trying to talk me into getting a job in a school system. I agree, the hours would be great, especially when my child is in school, but that would require teaching certification in the state where I live now, and I don't have it.

Posted by: hj | April 20, 2006 10:51 PM

This blog and 'pretend battle' between working moms and sahm's is interesting, but if you're looking to be truly antagonistic and get angry, try checking out that 'the hell with all that' book where the author (another upper middle class white woman with a nanny, housekeeper and personal cook) who doesn't work (because writing a book isn't actual work, and neither is writing essays) suggests we all stop what we are doing, go back home, take up housework again gleefully, and never leave our children.

I think all the working moms and stay at home moms would disagree with her extremism.

Posted by: L | April 21, 2006 1:06 AM

get real:

Again, it depends on the field and the organization. I was in a management position where I hired between 60 and 75 individuals per year for a large scale defense contracting firm. In general, we looked favorably on SAHMs who were returning to the workforce when they could demonstrate skills of interest.

It may also be the location -- I'm in an area with a very high number of professional SAHMs who have leadership positions in various volunteer organizations. There are a number I would love to hire if they ever made the decision to become WOHMs.

Posted by: A Dad | April 21, 2006 7:27 AM

its interesting how all discussions on this blog degenerate into working vs not working. I agree with just about everything that was said about this because women and men are talking from different pespectives and times in their lives. When kids are little and require a lot of care and can't speak for themselves yet, it's scary to leave them in the care of a stranger. When they are older and want to be independent it's really a good idea to spend more time with them because that's when they need you most emotionally. Some careers are IMPOSSIBLE to get back to after a long absense. These are usually not computer or business careers but more on a policy side -- they are prevalent in DC and that's why so many of us DC moms work -- because it took us years to get to this point and we would be forgotten in less than a week if we "opted out". We are torn every day (I know I am) but ultimately I think our kids will be proud of us and after they go to college we will have a life and identity of our own.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 21, 2006 11:47 AM

Get Real,

Its attitudes like yours that keep many women from thinking about staying at home. I always thought men were the reason women did not always advance in their careers, but I have some doubts. If you judge a resume by the number of buzz terms that are in it, then you deserve the people you hire and the work before family attitude that permeates many corporate businesses. I am a SAHM and I am a physician (volunteer at a Free Clinic). If I don’t rise to the top of the ladder that’s no big deal since rising to the top is not my main agenda my family is my top agenda. Yes, I do live a privileged life since my husband can comfortable support us on his salary.

I do not judge women for working outside the home since all my friends from medical school and residency do help support their families and they enjoy helping people with their skills. Many of my physician female friends are also the dominant income provider in their families so I understand why they have made their choices. I also understand many women have to work due to economic circumstances so I do not judge them for those choices. What I do find offensive is that somehow if I stay with my child I have lost some cogitative thinking abilities. I actually read the literature more now than when I was in practice.

What I like about working at home is that I am given the opportunity to learn about my son and I will be there for him when he accomplishes many firsts. I would not trade that for anything. In time, I will most likely go back to work but for this time in my life I will enjoy my family. How does my mom feel about me SAH, very supportive.

Posted by: SAHM Doc | April 21, 2006 11:51 AM

I'm a college professor, and my husband is a freelance writer and stay-at-home dad to our two children (a rising kindergartener and a 21 month old). My husband cooks and (very occasionally) cleans -- we hire a service for the latter chore, because neither of us are homemakers by disposition.

My mother never worked outside the home -- we were well enough off that she didn't have to, and as far as I ever knew, she had no ambition to have a career.

I get subtle signals of distress or disapproval from my mother about the unconventional division of labor in our household -- passive-aggressive "I'm not judging, but ..." expressions of amused or testy bewilderment.

The most annoying manifestation of my mother's lack of support for my career is her assumption/insistence, lately more overt, that I should haul up stakes and move (or change jobs) to be closer to family. She seems to think academic jobs in my specialty are plentiful (I'm a theologian, with tenure), and if they're not, why I can't I teach at the private school my independently-wealthy older brother started for his children?

And then on their last visit, came the bombshell that we're putting our son in the local (very good) public schools. (Neither I nor my siblings ever set foot in a public school.) We don't have the money, with 1.25 incomes, for private school and the 30 -mile commute each way that would entail. My mother suggested that I move back to my hometown (where my parents no longer live) and put our children in the schools we went to. When I explained that tenure meant I was probably here at my current job for the foreseeable future, she said, "But you'd do what's best for the children, right?"

There it is, in a nutshell -- the conflict between the generations over the mother's role.

Posted by: Donna B. | April 21, 2006 12:12 PM

I forgot to mention in my post yesterday that when I began life in my SAHM mode, it was because I was laid off during budget cuts. A fairly large group of women were laid off throughout the university; only one of the group (my friend) complained about sex discrimination. The EEOC gave her a right to sue letter, and she used it to negotiate a better severance.

Being laid off was a blow to me, but I did not have the energy to sue, or fight or anything. A few months after being laid off, I got pregnant, and I've stayed home since then.

At that time, my husband was working extremely long hours, attending grad school, and serving in the Naval Reserves, too. I just didn't think I could handle grieving, working, and the lack of my partner's help at the time.

I have always felt like an imposter as a SAHM, and instead viewed myself for a long time as an unemployed mother.

And, there's nothing any employer could say to me about my ten year gap in full-time employment that could make me feel worse than I already do about it.

The ironic thing is my best friend always wanted to be a SAHM, and she was the greatest when she was one. She works now, because she's divorced, and she really hates working. I'm proud of her for making the change even though she didn't want to do it.

I guess the most important thing is to roll with the punches, right?

Posted by: Kate | April 21, 2006 12:35 PM

My mother stayed home with the 4 of us until my youngest brother started kindergarten. She was from the country and married young; her educational experiences were very limited so the first thing she did was get her high school diploma. I remember her struggling over essays on T.S. Eliot while we did our own schoolwork. Over the next few years she took night courses in computing, law and economics and over the next 15 years took herself from an entry level bank teller to the bursar of a school. My mum is a very practical, able, energetic and organized person who kept us running as a family with home cooked meals every night, handmade clothes and help with projects, and she got a huge benefit out of her work as it gave her something outside the sometimes not very rewarding mob of teenagers she was raising and a close circle of friends who are still very important to her in her retirement. My dad and we kids pulled some of the slack during her night classes and I have always been very proud of her for her achievements.

Conversely, my mother is proud of our achievements. She was delighted by my sister's and my success in college (and my brothers' of course) and in our professions, and as she lives in the same town as my sister, treasures her role as supportive grandma who collects my sister's daughters from school. She and my father love their active part in my sister's kids' lives, a role my grandparents would never have thought of having for her. My mother views life as complex and consisting of many facets, and has always put effort into it all, work and home and parish included. She loves and supports us, loves and supports our children, helps out when she can and has never imparted a whiff of judgement about our parenting choices.

I've got the greatest mum!

Posted by: luckymum | April 21, 2006 4:17 PM

"Its attitudes like yours that keep many women from thinking about staying at home."

Yes, it is I, the great keeper of stay at home moms. Is that a joke? I don't care what you do, who works, who stays at home, etc., as long as it doesn't affect me.

However, when women who have been out of the work force for 5 or 10 years come waltzing back into the office like they deserve my job, then it does. Your skills at the PTA are no comparison to my years of experience and education. You can attack me all you want, but while you've been staying at home, I've been working and taking my kid to day care, so I can build my career and have flexibility when she is older.

Why do so many SAHM think they deserve what us working moms worked so hard for? At least I can be realistic with myself in saying I don't deserve the big promotion or managerial job that my single friend does.

She earned it by working late and covering for people who left early to take care of their kids. I don’t dislike SAHM, my mother was one, but you have to be fair to working moms too.

Posted by: get real | April 21, 2006 6:18 PM

To Get Real:

I think you are discounting that a lot of SAHM's maintain some contact with the professional world so the five, ten or 15 years they worked previous to being a SAHM doesn't get tossed out the window because they had GASP taken time out of the work force. If you think that those years of work experience prior to a woman being a SAHM should be discounted, shame on you.

Many SAHM's that have college degrees and some time in the professional environment don't go back to entry-level jobs, thankfully. Now, they may not end up jumping into the higher levels of an organization, but they may end up in a managerial role if they do things to fill their resume like classes, master's degree, technical courses etc. or have the qualifications. My aunt was a sahm for a long time, then jumped into a role as a host for a local news/feature talk show. She advanced in the studio until her retirement. Did she put PTA on her resume? Probably not. Were there more women and men who had actually been working the time that she was staying home? Probably. But so what? She ended up being the most qualified. According to your beliefs, she should have not gotten the job and been stuck filing paperwork or some other silly entry-level thing.

There is an interesting organization for what is called 'transitioning mothers' that is dedicated to mothers who choose to take a few years out of the work force to raise younger kids, but who plan to return to their careers. This organization is dedicated to finding a way to help women do this, without, from what I understand, having them return to entry-level work. Gah.

I think the mothers returning to the workforce that view it the same way as people who change careers mid-stride tend to do best. These women will keep current with their chosen field, maintain or try to develop contacts, and may even work for non-profit just to make sure their resume isn't out of date.

The biggest thing I noticed about sahm's is that some biased people (not saying you are) seem to think that women suddenly lose IQ points the moment they choose to stay home.

Now Get Real, honestly, nobody is saying years of PTA equals your years of work. A sahm may match your education, however. And her work in a non-profit organization may match your skills. Especially if she's skillful enough to show how her volunteer work directly relates to the position she's trying out for.

I think you are confusing the SAHM of today with the traditional "idea" of the SAHM of the past. Those women in make-believe land went to college to find men, never worked a day in their life except for tupperware parties, and hosted lots of luncheons. The SAHM's of today that this blog seems to be talking about often actually does work from the home, often in the same field as she left, and may plan or may not plan to return to work full-time, but has learned how to balance staying home and being with the kids with keeping a foot in the workforce.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 22, 2006 1:57 AM

Does anyone have any thoughts or advice on when two people have incredibly challenging and stressful careers? My wife of two years and I are both lawyers and we are discussing having children. I am worried that we're never going to see the kid, and that the kids will take away what little time we already have in our relationship! If anyone out there can speak to child rearing and two incredibly demanding careers, I would love to hear their thoughts. Thanks!

Posted by: Lawyer | April 22, 2006 2:15 AM

Get Real,

Not all women who stay at home do it because its what they always dreamed about doing. Some SAHM don’t work for family reasons that are not reflected in PTA meetings. My son has special needs and until he reaches a certain age programs to help him are not available (I live in a rural community). I have made the choice to be with him until he reaches that age. When I re-enter the workforce I do not pretend I will get back on track from where I exited; however, I will bring a different perspective to go along with my previous work experience and education that hopefully my employer will gain benefit. I still continue to read technical literature in my field and I still email my former colleagues so hopefully I will not be that antiquated upon my return. My one hope is that I don’t have to work with someone with you mentality.

Posted by: SAHM for now | April 22, 2006 8:27 AM

Get Real [and others]:

Ok, maybe your PTA's are different but our PTA president is managing a $50,000 annual budget and over a dozen active committees. In addition to maintaining a web site and both weekly and monthly newsletters, the PTA *manages* numerous after-school activities and over-the-summer activities. I would put the management capability required for this volunteer position on par with many of the paid management positions that I have hired people to fill.

Posted by: A Dad | April 22, 2006 1:37 PM

So, if s/he were applying at Get Real's company, the resume blurb would read: Manages $50,000 annual budget blah blah other stuff as president of said school's PTA or something like that. By putting the work description first, and the organization second, perhaps it will help stifle the chuckles of those who don't believe that people involved in volunteer/school/non-profit organizations actually do anything.

To moms returning back to work: find someone who does professional resumes and ask their advice. They can help translate what you did during the stay-at-home years into corporate lingo that will get you more interviews and avoid the entry-level jobs Get Real would blithely toss you into.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 22, 2006 4:06 PM

Yes, you are all correct. Anything a SAHM does is equal to a working mother's years of experience and on the job hours. Time spent away from their child doesn't matter and we all should just roll over and let someone who wanted to stay home have any job they want. Let's welcome them all back into the work force with open arms and give all of them what they deserve-a 6 figure salary.

It is no wonder that all the single and childless people are always complaining about working moms, they are probably complaining about the ones who used to stay home, and their "I deserve your job attitude." I know I do.

The PTA is also a joke. It is an unnecessary activity where SAHM's think they control the school and look down their noses at working moms. I have friends who can't even bake a cupcake for a bake sale because these woman are such control freaks.

So, if they want to stay home and run bake sales, then I guess when they get back to work they will have to deal with the realities of working with people that they put down at school activities.

Posted by: get real | April 23, 2006 9:25 AM

Get Real,

You're just making stuff up now aren't you? Because nobody can be that ignorant about what SAHM's of today are really like and what they really do.
Nobody said that anything a SAHM does is equal to your working experience, however, they do not just stay home and bake cupcakes.

Frankly, the average workplace rarely requires rocket science. Also, shhh, this is a secret, many SAHM's have an education, brains and often, a professional career before they have children. Welcome to the modern world. Oh, but if you are a rocket scientist? Than I can see your point...

Now, your reluctance to let SAHM's back in the work force at jobs that they deserve in the professional capacity they held before taking some time off for their children is a shame. I said "same or similar capacity" not your job. Now, if she did things that would add to her resume, got a master's, finished a PhD, managed a $50,000 annual budget, etc, than she would deserve a higher position than she let.

I think you're just being inflammatory... or you are a really angry woman, or a really angry man, who wants all women to either work, or stay home. Or you are someone who feels everyone in the country should work, and HEY lets put our kids in the workforce too, after all, schools are as useless as PTA's.

As for the single and childless people who are complaining now, why? Why should they care how many vacation days a mom spends on her kid? Or how many sick days a father uses? They are their vacation days. It's not like they are getting free days off, unless they do at your workplace. And it's not anyone's fault if you don't use all your vacation days. Hey. At least you can use them on a cruise to mellow out rather than taking care of a sick kid, which, frankly, might not be a bad idea for you to do.

Now this comment about SAHM's just staying home and running bake sales, ahhh ha ha ha ha ha. Whatever.

Come on,

you are just messing with us all aren't you?

I know a lot of working moms, and a lot of SAHM's, and none of them spout the venom or insanity that you have been sputtering out.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 23, 2006 8:24 PM

Yes, many people do say the same things that I do maybe people just don't want to say it to your face. And at least I put my ID in the tag line

My friend's experience with the PTA is real. They resent the fact that everyone doesn't want to stay home and they take it out on the mothers who have to work. That's my friend's experience and I'm sorry if it offends you. You also don't address any of the other issues that I brought up. This quote is also ridicules:

"Now, your reluctance to let SAHM's back in the work force at jobs that they deserve in the professional capacity they held before taking some time off for their children is a shame."

They don't deserve the same job as people who have been there or even the same level of job; in fact they don't deserve anything. Last time I checked this wasn't a socialistic country. It's also not a little bit of time it's usually five years or more. And many of my single friends resent the fact that they have been working their asses off and oops someone friends decides to come back to work and suddenly she is in the next cube over making the same amount of money. It has nothing to do with vacation.

And, I do have a child, a very well adjusted child who goes to daycare while I go to work. I am also really tired of every time someone doesn't have the same opinion as someone else, they are angry!

Maybe they are just different and have a different opinion. Oh, and one more thing, raising kids isn't rocket science either, but you SAHM sure want the Medal of Honor for doing it.

Posted by: get real | April 23, 2006 9:03 PM

"Last time I checked this wasn't a socialistic country. It's also not a little bit of time it's usually five years or more. And many of my single friends resent the fact that they have been working their asses off and oops someone friends decides to come back to work and suddenly she is in the next cube over making the same amount of money."

The reason that woman in the next cube over is making the same amount of money is because, as you point out, we don't live in a socialistic society, we live in a capitalistic society. She is in that cube because those who hired her feels she can do the job as well or better. If it's because 'someone likes her' well, that's an ugly side of business that we can blame the men and their 'boy's clubs' for. A lot of times, unfortunately, it is who you know. Doesn't make it right, and maybe that happened to your friend/s in your company, but I doubt it's everyone's experience.

Also, payscales in the corporate world (again, minus the government and federal agencies and similar organizations) aren't based so much on 'how long you worked here' but on position. It is possible that a woman or man working for five years experience to your ten years experience can get promoted or put in a different position and make more money than you. Shoot, often people in the same positions get paid differently. Is that right? Should you get paid for longevity? Maybe, but it's just the way it is.

Your single friends' are angry and bitter? Well, your single friends may not stay single forever, and it's amazing how sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, how feelings change when your life circumstances change.

Also, I said you were angry because your posts are very angry, not because you have a different opinion.

P.S. Not a SAHM mom. I work from home, and am finishing up a masters. Working from home gives me a lot of flexibility, which I love. I just differentiate between working from home and working outside the home, since working from home is an entirely different beast than working in an office and puts me in a position where I deal with both SAHM's and working moms.

p.p.s. I didn't create a handle, sorry, I didn't actually intend to um, comment on the blog.

Posted by: no handle | April 24, 2006 1:25 AM

Get Real,

I am just a male observer to this blog so I do not want to get too involved in your cat fight. I work in the R&D department of a large chemical corporation. I work mostly with Ph.D. (i.e., my peers). We only have a couple (literally two that I know) of women who left the work force and then came back after doing stints of SAH duty (sorry if I offend anyone). My observation is that after a little retooling (learning how much instrumentation and software changed) they are as competent in their science as any male or female who never took a break. One of these females found she preferred people time more and moved into an administrative role leveraging her technical skills in her new job. From my experience, I find your observations a little off base. However, I have an n of two for my observations.

On a side note: My wife who also has advance degrees is currently a SAHM who is very interested in new technical developments in my field (her field is different from mine). I don't know if she will go back to work or not but I have no problem in recommending her for a job. I will make one other observation that many people look down on SAHM and the host of this blog has even stated that "most SAHM are young and uneducated with few choices" (my quotation is more a paraphrase). In my circle of friends, all the SAHM I know have college degrees with a number of them advanced. If I asked my wife, she would say its hard enough raising kids why do we need to point fingers at each other.

Get Real I hope you are a loud minority and not the normative when it comes to WHO view of SAHM.

Posted by: DE Dad | April 24, 2006 9:30 AM

Oops...that should be WOHM not WHO

Posted by: DE Dad | April 24, 2006 9:35 AM

To No Handle & Get Real - it is a socialIST society or a capitalIST society, not capitalistic/socialistic. But also, Get Real has a point (though I might make it a little less angrily). If I need a lawyer, I wouldn't want one who hasn't been out of work for 5 years - I'd want one who had been practicing for the past few years. Same with a doctor/mechanic/accountant. Because the choice wouldn't be between a skilled professional who had been out of the work place, and bad professionals who have remained in the work place. There are always going to be a good pool of professionals to draw from who have remained in the workplace. And I'd rather hire them (as a client, not an employer), than someone who has the same education and skills, but who left to raise their kids for a few years.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2006 10:48 AM


You've pretty much made the cat fight moot :)

Your observations and points are well taken.

Posted by: to DE Dad | April 24, 2006 11:00 AM

DE Dad - thanks. Unfortunately, I wish I wasn't right (mom here, too) - I think we (myself included) just need to be a little more realistic when we talk about working/returning to work/etc. This blog can be so depressing sometimes, but I have been really heartened by some of the thoughts posted by others that I thought I was crazy for thinking myself!

Posted by: Cautious poster | April 24, 2006 11:12 AM

To Lawyer:

I don't know how to have a two high powered career family and do what I want to do for my children and family. (This is not to say it's not possible). I used to litigate, both at a large DC firm, and then at a litigation boutique. Even at a 'family friendly' boutique, litigation deadlines and client demands are not flexible, and as you know, practicing at a high level requires near-constant focus. When we were ready to have children, I opted to take a less demanding (9-5) but still somewhat intellectually stimulating (non-legal) job in a subject area I find interesting and important. I have maintained some skills and can contribute financially while focusing much of my attention on my family. My husband's career is less time consuming, but extremely cerebral, and is immensely satisfying. We knew I wanted to be the primary caretaker for our (then prospective) children and that my husband's job would be primary. Like many DC area lawyers, a successful, rigorous academic and then professional life has always been a cornerstone of my life. It was a huge (and unexpected) paradigm shift for me to realize the practical impact of my changing priorities once I had children. I plan to go back to practicing (no more than 40/45 hours weeks, though) within the next year or so...although I'm not sure how I am going to do that yet.

I have made the right choice FOR US: our children are smart, happy, polite, well adjusted, confident, etc. and they get lots of individual and joint parent time and focus. Our marriage is fulfilling and happy. We could not have accomplished that if both of us were on the fast track (again--that's just us. Others do it, although none of our similarly educated friends with children are trying to do that). On the other hand, it has not been without significant costs to me: I feel less accomplished professionally than I am accustomed to feeling (and being), and know that overall, I am not as on top of my game as I should be. We are not making the financial progress we want/need to (adding as quickly to our childrens' college/post graduate education funds/possible tuition costs in advance of college, etc.). Also in the few periods where I have needed to work late or focus more, we have had to work hard to shift our routines and family structure to allow for that easily.

The bottom line is that you have to figure out what your priorities are at any given time and use your intelligence and creativity to achieve whatever it is you want for your family at any given time. For us, the priority was for me to be visible, immediately accessible and available to our children during the very early years. I would downshift my career/career ambitions again in a second if we thought it necessary. However, I now know that the costs for me and the long term financial effects for us and our children are too high to do that forever. We cannot pretend that there are not real emotional, professional and financial costs to 'opting out,' even for a discreet period of time or downshifting to a less demanding job. You are smart to think about this in advance, and I wish I could tell you that I know a way to have it all. I guess we have concluded that every family member can have it all, but not at the same time, and not all the time. Keep thinking about it; you just may be able to strike the perfect balance for your family.

Best of luck to you and your wife.

Posted by: Non practicing (for now) lawyer | April 24, 2006 11:37 AM

I went back to work when my kids were little mostly becuase I wasn't sure my marriage was going to last. I didn't trust my husband enough to stay home and possibly sabotage my future earning potential when I might NEED that earning potential -- and SOON!

That was my real motivation for returning to work. self preservation. And the women who judged me for that had happy marriages for the most part. I guess it never occured to them that some women work for 'insurance' in case the marraige doesn't work out.

Never told my MIL or my mom that THAT was the real reason I went back to work either. Just a thought . .

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2006 10:04 PM

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